Austrian vice chancellor resigns amid Ibiza video scandal

Austria’s far-right vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has resigned today after two German newspapers published footage of him apparently offering lucrative government contracts to a potential Russian benefactor.

Freedom Party (FPO) leader Strache was shown in the footage of as-yet unknown origin meeting a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch in Ibiza in 2017, shortly before the election that brought him to power.

In the footage published by German media on Friday evening, a week before European Parliament elections, he appears to offer to funnel contracts towards a company in exchange for political and financial support. 

In the video, Strache and party colleague Johann Gudenus are heard telling the unnamed woman she could expect lucrative construction contracts if she buys an Austrian newspaper and supports the Freedom Party. 

Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has resigned over "catastrophic" video footage of him that threatened to bring down the right-wing coalition government

Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has resigned over "catastrophic" video footage of him that threatened to bring down the right-wing coalition government

Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has resigned over ‘catastrophic’ video footage of him that threatened to bring down the right-wing coalition government

Fighting back tears, Strache said today he was illegally set up in a 'political assassination' but added that his behaviour in the video was 'stupid, irresponsible and a mistake'

Fighting back tears, Strache said today he was illegally set up in a 'political assassination' but added that his behaviour in the video was 'stupid, irresponsible and a mistake'

Fighting back tears, Strache said today he was illegally set up in a ‘political assassination’ but added that his behaviour in the video was ‘stupid, irresponsible and a mistake’ 

Fighting back tears, Strache said today he was illegally set up in a ‘political assassination’ but added that his behaviour in the video was ‘stupid, irresponsible and a mistake’.

The scandal has led to speculation about the future of Austria’s governing coalition between Strache’s anti-immigration Freedom Party and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s centre-right People’s Party. 

Kurz is reportedly planning to issue a statement later today.

The video filmed in Ibiza in 2017 shows Strache meeting a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch

The video filmed in Ibiza in 2017 shows Strache meeting a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch

The video filmed in Ibiza in 2017 shows Strache meeting a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch

People gather outside the office of the Vice Chancellor today as he made his resignation speech

People gather outside the office of the Vice Chancellor today as he made his resignation speech

People gather outside the office of the Vice Chancellor today as he made his resignation speech

He may replace Strache in the cabinet with another party member or end the coalition and call a new election.

In his resignation statement, Strache said he was quitting so the coalition could continue its work.

Strache’s Freedom Party’s platform says ‘Austria is not a country of immigration’ and cites ‘cultural Christianity’ as one of the country’s social pillars. 

Strache was shown in the footage of as-yet unknown origin meeting a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch in 2017, shortly before the election that brought him to power

Strache was shown in the footage of as-yet unknown origin meeting a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch in 2017, shortly before the election that brought him to power

Strache was shown in the footage of as-yet unknown origin meeting a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch in 2017, shortly before the election that brought him to power 

In his resignation statement, Strache said he was quitting so the coalition could continue its work

In his resignation statement, Strache said he was quitting so the coalition could continue its work

In his resignation statement, Strache said he was quitting so the coalition could continue its work 

The EU elections taking place May 23-26 are seen as a forum by both sides in Europe’s broad argument over immigration and democracy in the wake of the 2015 influx of migrants and asylum seekers from violence in the Middle East.

On one side of the debate are nationalist, anti-immigrant movements critical of the EU such as Germany’s Alternative for Germany and France’s far-right National Rally led by Marine Le Pen.

Pro-European movements such as mainstream center-right and center-left parties see the vote as a chance to reject populism and support European cooperation and integration.

The scandal has led to speculation about the future of Austria's governing coalition between Strache's anti-immigration Freedom Party and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's (left) centre-right People's Party

The scandal has led to speculation about the future of Austria's governing coalition between Strache's anti-immigration Freedom Party and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's (left) centre-right People's Party

The scandal has led to speculation about the future of Austria’s governing coalition between Strache’s anti-immigration Freedom Party and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s (left) centre-right People’s Party 

Strache's Freedom Party's platform says 'Austria is not a country of immigration' and cites 'cultural Christianity' as one of the country's social pillars

Strache's Freedom Party's platform says 'Austria is not a country of immigration' and cites 'cultural Christianity' as one of the country's social pillars

 Strache’s Freedom Party’s platform says ‘Austria is not a country of immigration’ and cites ‘cultural Christianity’ as one of the country’s social pillars

The daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the weekly Der Spiegel on Friday published extracts of a covert video purportedly showing Strache offering government contracts to a Russian woman allegedly interested in investing large amounts of money in Austria.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel said the footage was authenticated by a forensic video expert. It couldn’t be immediately independently verified by The Associated Press.

According to the two newspapers, the video spanned some six hours of drink-fueled conversation in a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza between the Austrian politicians and the woman, who claimed to be the niece of a prominent Russian businessman.

Aside from discussing possible investments in Austria, including the purchase of influential tabloid newspaper Kronen Zeitung, Strache also appears to suggest ways of funneling money to his party via an unconnected foundation to circumvent Austrian rules on political donations.

Strache announced his resignation to journalists without taking questions Saturday. He said that he had had no further contact with the woman and she gave no contributions to the party.

Link hienalouca.com

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